Customers wear face masks to protect against the spread of the coronavirus as they shop at the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia, Feb. 16, 2022. (AP File Photo/Matt Rourke) Masks in Philadelphia
Customers wear face masks to protect against the spread of the coronavirus as they shop at the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia, Feb. 16, 2022. (AP File Photo/Matt Rourke)

City health officials said the mask mandate is no longer necessary due to a leveling off of COVID-19 cases and reduced hospitalizations.


PHILADELPHIA — Health officials in Philadelphia announced Thursday night that they are ending the city’s indoor mask mandate — just four days after they reinstated it.

The mask mandate had gone back into effect on Monday.

Acting health commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole told the Board of Health at a public meeting on Thursday that hospitalizations related to COVID-19 had unexpectedly gone down 25% in a matter of days.

“This is really very encouraging,” Bettigole said. “It is quite different from what’s happening around us in the rest of Pennsylvania and in other states, where we are seeing hospitalizations continue to edge up. I’m really very happy to be with you here tonight to say that it appears that we no longer need to mandate masks in Philadelphia and that we can actually move to simply a strong recommendation.”

Philadelphia was the first major US city to reinstate its indoor mask mandate.

When city officials announced on April 11 that it was bringing back the mask mandate, they said the number of cases was “going up more quickly than the Health Department feels is safe.”

Bettigole said the mask mandate was necessary to curb a potential new wave driven by an omicron subvariant. 

Cases and hospitalizations continued to rise at least through Monday, when the health department reported 82 patients in the hospital with COVID-19 — up nearly 80% from a week earlier — with confirmed cases up 58% over that same span to 224 per day. Those numbers were still a fraction of what the city endured during the wintertime omicron surge.

Bettigole told the Board of Health on Thursday night that hospitalizations had since drifted down to 65.